In Defense of Small Dairies (and other small farms)

January 24, 2015

Here is a review of Bruce Scholten’s new book – U.S Organic Dairy Politics: Animals, Pasture, People and Agribusiness.
January 13th, 2015

Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan – a division of St. Martin’s Press (in the US)

A review by Jim Goodman

Bruce Scholten’s in-depth and thoughtful analysis of U.S. organic dairy politics begins with his own memories of growing up on a Washington State dairy farm. From what was common in his childhood, small dairy farms operated by multi-generational family labor, pasturing their cattle, building the soil and supporting local communities, Scholten shows the reader how things have changed over the past five decades.

Scholten exposes the system that has come to control and victimize the farmer (both conventional and organic), the animals, the environment and the consumer. Noting that “Get big or get out” — the exhortation of Earl Butz — set the stage for the shift of agriculture from small family dairy farms to “mega-dairies,” Scholten clearly explains how this shift was made using government policy, driven by corporations that have taken control of markets, of seeds and even of the simple ethical principles that had been a safeguard for the environment and the animals with whom we are so interdependent.

While many farmers saw organic farming as a way to get out of the increasingly industrialized and globalized food system, Scholten shows how current policy in Washington is allowing, if not encouraging, the “industrialization” of organic agriculture. A parallel system to conventional agriculture, with intentionally weak organic standards and lax government regulation, is the situation we as organic farmers and consumers face. But there is resistance and hope, as Scholten notes; there are individuals and populist advocacy groups fighting to maintain the integrity of organic while ensuring farmers a fair price and consumers an honest product. Perhaps most of all, there are still farm families who “call their animals by name and manage their farms like living organisms in rural communities.”

You may link to the blog here: http://nffc.net/index.php/u-s-organic-dairy-politics-by-bruce-scholten/.

Thanks, Jim!


Check Out This New Documentary!

January 11, 2015

This trailer for a new documentary about young people becoming farmers features several Maine locations: Vinland Restaurant in Portland, Frinkelpod Farm in Arundel (a new one for us) and The Sheepscot General Store in Whitefield (one of our favorites for their unique take on the whole “value added” thing.) Hurrah for Maine! We have the fasting growing farming population and we are the only state in the nation in which the average of farmers is falling.


Giving Tuesday

December 2, 2014

We are currently working hard on what we want to see come out of the upcoming Legislative session.   There is another edition of Saving Seeds in the works.   And this fall we got together with our friends at the Coaliton of Immokalee Workers to make blueberry jam as the first itteration of the Blueberry Jam Cooperative.   All of this can only happen if we have the financial wherewithal to do this work.   Hope you can add us to your end of the year giving.   And thanks for all the ongoing support.

image


Remarks on Food Sovereignty and GMOs

June 1, 2014

Last Saturday Betsy was in Monument Square in Portland  at the March Against Monsanto.   The week before that Heather was on the steps of the Maine Supreme Court at the press conference just before Dan Brown’s case was heard.   In between those two events two counties in Oregon passed bans on planting GMO crops.

Here is all those events:

March Against Monsanto

I have come here today to speak about the food sovereignty movement.   And I will do that in a moment but first I want to tell you a story and toward the end I’ll offer you a solution to the food situation in which we find ourselves.

Back in 2006 I was standing around with some friends at one of our Mud Season Dinners.   These are events meant to demonstrate that even in the dark days of February or March there is still enough, entirely local, food to feed a crowd. At that moment we were at the height of our resistance against the animal ID law.  This is the USDA regulations that say all farmers who have livestock have to register and tattoo or tag all of their animals with a number and then do all the paperwork that entails.   So if anyone gets sick from eating meat, when that animal goes into the churning cauldron that is our current food system, the Feds can trace that animal’s life and provenance from birth to slaughter.   Naturally the anarchists, non-anarchist, libertarians and plain old left wing activists, I was chatting with were none too pleased with this development.  One of them asked plaintively “What are we going to do?”   A good friend of mine, a farmer who feeds thousands of people every year, happened to be standing in the group.  He looked at her and said “We’re going to keep doing what we are doing…it’s just going to be illegal.”

And that is the essence of this movement.   It is; in the tradition of Suffrage, Civil Rights and Marriage Equality; essentially a human rights movement.    We got them out of our voting booths and bedrooms now let’s get them out of our kitchens.  We are; by eating fresh local food, sourced from farmers that we know; committing an act of civil disobedience. Like the Palestinians on the West Bank standing in front of their olive trees,  we are standing in front of our apple trees, protecting them from the encroachment of a hostile government.    They, the government bureaucrats, say they are protecting us from ourselves.   They say that we don’t know enough not to eat bad food.  They say that a farmer would sell tainted milk or meat or eggs or vegetables to his neighbors and friends.   They say that we would feed bad food to our own family and loved ones.    Well, let me tell you, the only bad food we are feeding anyone is the over-processed, GMO-ladden, vacant-of-nutrient foods that the big manufacturers shovel our way every day in the chain supermarkets.  If you are eating fresh nutrient-dense foods you are going to eat less, because your body is going to crave less.   And you are going to be healthier over all.  Twinkies just can’t do that.

This is what I call a “just walk away” moment.   My favorite kind of civil disobedience.   Just as Gandhi lead the salt march  to prove to the people of India, and to the British Empire, that they could make their own salt and did not need to remain enslaved to the English salt monopoly, so too we can grow our own food.   As Ron Finley of the South Central Garden in LA said so eloquently:  “Gardening is the most therapeutic and defiant act you can do.  Plus you get strawberries.”  and my favorite quote from him: “Growing your own food is like printing your own money.”

So we in the food sovereignty movement offer you the opportunity to take back control of what you eat three times a day.   Let the big guys know that they cannot intimidate us into eating rubbish that nourishes neither our bodies nor our souls.   Anyone interested in getting a food sovereignty ordinance passed in your own town can speak to me and we’ll get you started.

We need to protect our small farms and farmers.   They are the people that feed us.  They are also, historically,  the people that brought us the populist movement which lead to so much government reform in the late 1800’s.   And currently the farmers in Nebraska are one of the major reasons we are winning the fight against the XL pipeline.   Farmers are independent, hard working, tough minded folk who see the truth more clearly than most and are not afraid to stand up for what they believe.

So stand with small farmers and farmworkers everywhere and take back your power.   Stand up in front of your apples trees or tomato plants or by the side of your local farmer and just say NO.   No to GMOs, no to heavy-handed government oversight, no to caving into the intimidation bought and paid for by the folks that make the most money selling us crap to eat.   Join the next great civil rights movement.   The right to know what is in our food and  to eat whatever we damn well please.

“Be joyful though you have considered all the facts.”  Wendell Berry

GMO Bans In Oregon


Mainers Feeding Mainers

June 1, 2014

Our own Heather Retberg (and good friend the Honorable Craig Hickman) was at Husson University this past Thursday on a panel about food security.   The BDN had an article about the panel.  Here is the opening paragraph and a link:

BANGOR, Maine — Food, what is grown in Maine and how to get it into the mouths of hungry people, was the topic of the day at a Thursday morning panel discussion convened by Bangor City Councilor Ben Sprague. The answer — support Maine’s farmers.”

And part of the article was a nice little video from Good Shepard Foodbank.  Watch it!


Busy Week for FMF

May 5, 2014

May 12th and May 13th are both big days for Food for Maine’s Future.  On the 12th we are co-sponsoring a talk by our friend from the Coalition of Immokalee workers Gerardo Chavez:

fast_front_landscape




Event
:  Coalition of Immokalee Workers organizer, Gerardo Reyes Chavez, will speak about the groundbreaking farm worker rights movement in the tomato fields of Florida and the effective establishment of the  Fair Food Program. Discussion to follow on how area Mainers can support this movement. For more information: 266-6846

When and Where:  Monday, May 12th, 2014, 7pm
                                at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Ellsworth, 121 Bucksport Road.

Sponsored by( more sponsors pending): The Community Union of Ellsworth, the Unitarian Universalist Church of Ellsworth’s Peace and Social Action Committee, Food for Maine’s Future, Power In Community Alliances (PICA).

Background :  The worker-led  Coalition of Immokalee Workers has worked tirelessly to change the abusive labor conditions and poverty wages experienced by farm workers in the tomato fields of Florida. Already great changes have been made in an industry historically riddled with rampant labor and human rights abuses, including wage theft, physical abuse, sexual harassment, and cases of forced servitude. 
After years of organizing, public campaigns, direct action, and negotiations with retailers and growers, the Coalition of Immokalee Workers has facilitated the creation of the highly effective Fair Food Program, which requires retailers, who agree to participate, to pay farmworkers a penny and a half per pound premium for tomatoes picked, and obligates them to purchase from farms adhering to a fair labor code of conduct.  In 2010, the Florida Tomato Growers Association, representing 90% of Florida’s tomato growers, became part of the program, opening their farms to independent and enforceable monitoring. Integral to the Fair Food Program is worker participation. Fieldworkers are educated on their rights and can report abuses without fear of reprisal. New changes initiated include the requirement of time clocks, access to clean water and protection from harsh weather and pesticides.
  Thirteen retailers nationwide have signed on to the Fair Food Program. The latest to sign are Walmart and Delmonte Fresh Produce. A number of grocery chains continue to resist participation, including the Florida based Publix. Of the nation’s top 5 fast food restaurants, Wendy’s is the only hold out.

AND THEN! On Tuesday we will all be gathering in Portland to support Dan Brown as he continues his court fight against the Maine Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Conservation:
We rallied behind Farmer Brown on a raw November day in Blue Hill to petition the state to drop the charges in their lawsuit against Dan for selling milk directly from his farm to patrons.

The state did not drop their lawsuit. It’s been a long 2 1/2 years as the case against Dan has worked its way through the court system, and through many legislative ups and downs as legislators have worked to correct the mistaken law interpretation that changed Maine’s policy toward the direct sale of milk from the farm.

One such bill passed only to be vetoed by Governor LePage. This session, another bill that sought to instate the pre-2009 policy into statute. Under strong industry pressure, in a very partisan election year, that bill failed.

Dan Brown is still in the midst of the policy-law confusion instigated at the Quality Assurance and Regulation Division 5 years ago. Please come to Portland on the 13th, support Dan Brown and farmers like him. Support your access to farm food.

Maine’s Supreme Court will be hearing oral arguments on May 13th at 11:40 in Portland, ME.

Farmer Dan Drown of Gravel Wood Farm addresses supporters at a Nov. 18 in Blue Hill, Maine. The state is suing Brown over raw milk sales. Photo by Kyle W. Chick (Kyle W. Chick Photography)
Photo: Farmer Dan Drown of Gravel Wood Farm addresses supporters at  a Nov. 18 in Blue Hill, Maine.  The state is suing Brown over raw milk sales.  Photo by Kyle W. Chick (Kyle W. Chick Photography)
There will be a press conference at 10:00 am in front of the court house if you would like to join us for that also.

Farm Labor Reality Tour 2014

March 16, 2014

Check out the WhyHunger Blog with a great write up about the Farm Labor Reality Tour.  Featuring a video of our own Bob and Julie talking about the plight of small farmers every where.

From the post:  “The two events are almost 1,400 miles apart, but the two groups continue to stand in solidarity with each other, one year removed from last winter’s Farm Labor Reality Tour. In 2013, Maine farmer Bob St. Peter, co-founder of Food for Maine’s Future and FFD board member, traveled with his family from Maine to rural Wisconsin and Minneapolis to meet with FFD member farmers and learn about the ongoing crisis in small-scale dairy farming–and then down to Florida to walk 200 miles with the CIW’sMarch for Rights, Respect and Fair Food. They were joined on the march in Florida by some of those same Wisconsin dairy farmers, including John Kinsman, on what would turn out to be his final activist trip. The tour aimed to highlight the common struggles faced by all those laboring in the food system and explore how to work together rather than being pitted against each other.

“We will not allow farmers and farmworkers to be pitted against each other,” said Bob at the closing rally of the march on the final day of the tour. “We don’t want to fight over a very small piece of pie. We want a bigger pie.”


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,008 other followers